As the world’s two largest economies appear to be moving closer to a possible trade war, U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad is warning China about the consequences of trade sanctions on U.S. soybeans. Branstad told Bloomberg Television that any attempts to cut down on U.S. soybean imports would hurt Chinese consumers more than it would American farmers. The crop provides a key source of protein, including as feed for hogs, to the country’s growing middle class. Branstad was asked about possible retaliation on soybeans and says it wouldn’t make sense and would only hurt Chinese consumers. “Ultimately, the Chinese will realize we should work together on our common issues and retaliation is not the answer,” he says, “instead, we need collaboration and cooperation to address issues that have been building for some time.”
China is the world’s biggest importer of soybeans and new measures against imports would result in an escalation of trade tensions. Curbs would hit Midwestern farmers hard in states that are crucial to President Trump’s efforts to keep Republicans in control of Congress after the general elections. China uses roughly one-third of the American crop to feed more than 400 million pigs. The U.S. trade deficit with China was a record $375 billion last year.